BusinessWeek recently highlighted Driptech among their “Most Intriguing Businesses.” I first met Peter Frykman when he participated in our 2008 Green Technology Entrepreneurship Academy, passionate about the commercial opportunities he could envision for his new technology.
There are countless social entrepreneurs starting businesses in the developed world for customers in the developing world. Most exceed the intentions-to-understanding ratio. Peter and Driptech had the advantage of going through Jim Patell’s Design for Extreme Affordability class at Stanford, and its focus on the user and use context, and seemed to have broken through to actual usefulness.
As BusinessWeek says
Frykman’s breakthrough was the realization that such systems didn’t
have to be made in large manufacturing facilities and then exported
abroad. Instead, they could be made with cheap plastic tubing and
compact precision lasers, even in facilities in target markets.
Driptech’s innovation includes a better drip irrigation system—cheap enough and simple enough for small-scale farmers—along with a better manufacturing process. And it’s the production process, as much as the product, that enables broad diffusion. Manufacturing is localized and draws on low cost and globally available materials (polyethylene tubing). In BusSpeak, that means value creation is pushed to the margins of the network, to the benefit of the local and critical partners in distribution, sales, and service.
Distributed production may be the coming industrial revolution–the tools that enable small and local producers to acquire precision manufacturing capabilities. First to produce someone else’s designs but soon enough to be able to adapt and reconfigure for their own. Given its product and mission, Driptech could be one of the more rewarding of the early examples.